Song of Solomon 6:11. I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits [or sproutings] of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded.
The oldest interpreters understand these nuts of the larger species like the walnuts, which are most common in warmer countries; and they distribute the several parts into the outer husk which is bitter, the enclosing shell which is hard and sometimes rough, and the kernel within which is sweet.
They applied the emblem variously; we take it, along with Augustine, of the Word of God. Undoubtedly that blessed Word is to the children of this world, and to every man at first, bitter to the taste. The outer rind is so bitter and distasteful to many that they conclude there can be no sweetness within, and cast the whole away; or more commonly they leave it untouched and untasted, sometimes pleased with certain palatable preparations from it, but never really tasting the Word itself. The reproof that meets them on the very surface of Scripture is so harsh and nauseous to them that they look on the whole as a bitter medicine, which may be necessary and therefore good for the sick and dying, but which is not fit for any who are in life and health, and able to relish pleasant food. They will not therefore throw it away in contempt, nor will they revile the Good Physician; but they leave both the medicine and the healer to an hour of extremity, a dying hour, and they descend into the grave unsaved. But when a man’s conscience is once awake to his lost condition, he no longer neglects the word of life on account of its bitter husk; he can receive reproof and even love it, for to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet, and “the reproofs of instruction are the way of life”. Nothing now seems bitter compared with sin, nothing painful except the anger of a holy God.
But beneath the bitter surface he finds a hard shell, and seems farther than ever from the nutritious kernel within. It is not distaste that hinders him now, but helplessness. He finds himself like a hungry child in a garden of nuts which hang over him in tempting profusion, but his teeth are too feeble to break them. Such is the letter of the blessed Word, a hard shell containing a coveted treasure, but without the least power to impart life to the soul until it is opened by a stronger hand. But when once the hard shell is broken, the kernel is found and is sweeter than honey from the comb. The hungering soul eats that which is good, eats and lives for ever. Then there is the whole “garden of nuts”, hundreds hanging around in every pathway of the Word, in every line of the book of life. The soul delights in every hard case that is broken, and every fresh kernel that is opened for it out of those countless treasures. It says of each in succession, This now is mine, and that is my own for ever. It delights also in the treasures that are still hid. It looks over all the Word of God, all the promises, all the truths, and says, These are all mine in free gift, I can now see only their outer surface, but they are kept for me by my heavenly Father, and will be opened for me as I am able to receive them.
Children of this world, you also are often entering a garden of nuts, you are seeking earnestly to find the fruit, you are often forcing your way through much that is distasteful. With great effort you break the hard shell at length, and all you find is “vanity and vexation of spirit”. The fruit tasted is often rotten, and more bitter within than without, and at best it is a mere empty shell that can yield no real sweetness, no satisfaction to the soul, no food to the man. But in the whole garden of God there is not a single fruit that is bitter within, not a single fruit that is empty and void. All is full, all is ripe, all is sweet; it is all the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of peace, the fruit of eternal life. “O taste and see that God is good”, enter the garden, eat and live. If you will not hearken to us, listen to one who knew all that was to be found without the Word of God, and who thus describes what is to be found within:
Within that awful volume lies
The mystery of mysteries.
Happiest they of human race
To whom their God has granted grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch and force the way.
And better had they ne’er been born,
Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.
1. Moody Stuart (1809-1898) was a noted Edinburgh minister. This is an extract from his highly-regarded commentary on the Song.